Jessica Pickering and Brittany Word were not in the New Canaan Library Tuesday afternoon to study up on the latest version of the SAT or to read college profiles.

Although these are common tasks for students like Pickering and Word, incoming high school juniors, they were actually at the library to pick out books for summer reading.

This, however, is not a requirement for them.

"In school, you're reading books that you're required to read, so you don't have time (to read for pleasure)," Pickering said, noting that she reads more than 30 books throughout the summer.

"Wow, that's a lot," Word said, laughing.

She agreed with Pickering that summer is the perfect time for pleasure reading, but 30-plus books seemed like an awful lot to Word.

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She said she probably reads closer to 20 books throughout the summer, sticking to popular fiction like "The Hunger Games" series.

"I like that it's a different world than our own," Word said. "Like if you have a problem of your own, you can escape to another world."

"I like realistic fiction, like situations that could actually happen," Pickering said. One of her favorite books is "A Mango-Shaped Space" by Wendy Mass, about a young girl with synesthesia.

Pickering and Word were left to their own devices to find the next books they would read.

Faced with the challenge of finding the right books to read this summer, Pickering and Word limited their search to the young adult section of the library where they said they would find the kinds of books they are interested in reading.

Others may look for assistance in summer reading programs and suggested reading lists.

Teen Services Librarian Gretchen Kolderup said 112 teens in grades seven through 12 are currently signed up for the Summer Library Exploration and Reading Program, or SLERP.

"Basically, kids sign up and they keep track of how much time they spend reading," Kolderup said, adding they also keep track of their cultural explorations. These include museum visits, concerts, theatrical performances, historical landmarks and library programs.

"If they go to museums and they learn something there, that's something we want to encourage," she said.

By reading or attending a cultural event, students earn points toward weekly prizes and a grand prize at the end of the program. Kolderup said the 112 participants have logged a total of 96,787 minutes of reading and exploration so far, which is equal to 67 days.

"The idea is that, over the summer, reading enriches your life and improves your test scores when you get back (to school) in the fall," she said.

The library also provides copies of suggested reading for students at Saxe Middle School, who are required to read at least one book in the summer.

Similarly, Middlesex Middle School in Darien requires eighth graders to read "Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper.

Erica Gauquier, the teen services librarian at Darien Library, said the library has about 50 copies of the book and orders more as students join the waiting list.

"I keep an eye on the holds and usually we like to do one book for every three holds," Gauquier said, adding she also reads most of the books the teens are reading, especially ones the library recommends, to make sure they are appropriate.

Teens have free reign as to what they are allowed to read from Darien Library's suggested summer reading.

"A lot of them are really in to fantasy," Gauquier said. "That's kind of a big trend right now in the young adult publishing world."

But requiring summer reading seems to be a thing of the past, according to Rosanne Nissen, events coordinator at Barrett Bookstore, 314 Heights Road, in Darien.

"We've always gotten involved with summer reading with the schools and the libraries as well," Nissen said. "And what we've seen that changed is the schools used to have a required list."

Nissen said one thing that hasn't changed much, however, is the enthusiasm for summer reading.

"Everyone's very enthusiastic and that's the nice thing about it," she said. "The last three weeks of school and the first three weeks of vacation, there's a high level of parents and students coming in."

She said some kids will leave with a stack of books to last the summer away at camp.

This is also the case at Elm Street Books, 35 Elm St., in New Canaan. General Manager Kathleen Millard said the summer is not normally as busy as the fall, but this summer they are fortunate to have popular books on the shelves.

"We're actually over last summer," Millard said of the store's book sales.

She said many customers this time of year are parents buying books to pack in their children's camping bags. They are also residents gearing up to go on vacation.

"We always have summer reading picks to try and get them some paperbacks that are easy to pack," she said.

Melanie Kelly, a reference librarian, said the New Canaan Library had a similar display of staff-picked books.

"We had one theme that was `A Little Light Reading for the Road,' which was literally books that are not heavy," Kelly said. "We just changed the display to local fun that people can have with travel books."

But the library's official summer reading theme this year is "Novel Destinations," Kelly said. As part of this program, library patrons are encouraged to submit photos of their library card in front of cultural or literary landmarks, concerts and museums they visit during the summer. They can also submit a photo of their card with whatever book they are reading on vacation.

Kelly said, in addition to events like "Summer Movie Mondays" and "Authors on Stage," the library still hosts its regular review, "Beyond the Best Seller."

"It's a constant discussion with the readers," she said. "They recommend books and we recommend books."

tmichael@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; www.twitter.com/tmichael89